Cuckoo trees and air trees

Sometimes there are young trees growing on a branch or trunk of an older tree – some people call them cuckoo trees, and some people call them air trees. Maybe a bird has carried the seed there, or maybe it’s the wind. Here are three air/cuckoo trees. The left photo is of a young rowan tree, growing in the dip of a large hollow branch. The middle photo is a Scots pine, quite well established and growing happily right in the middle of a dead oak trunk.

The right photo is a birch tree, growing in the middle of the trunk of this living tree. The trunk is dead, and is surrounded by living bark. This dead trunk stops part way up the tree, and is filled with debris and decaying wood. The birch tree’s roots will be anchored in this and will draw nourishment from it.

This last tree has a birch air/cuckoo tree growing in its short trunk. At first glance you might not notice it, and think that it’s all oak leaves that you’re seeing as you walk by. But there’s a definite difference. From one side in particular the young trunk looks different – very straight up and smooth, compared to the oak’s branches and twigs.

Trees in summer, trees in winter

I often walk past the same trees at different times of the year, and when I get home and sort out my photos, I see just how different they are throughout the year. Here’s a great example:

So they’re both the same tree, but you can learn different things from them at different times. In winter you can see the shape of the tree’s branches more clearly, and really get a sense of how the tree has grown a second set of smaller/epicormic branches, after the long-term shape of the tree has been established. The trunk is sinuous, and without the full growth of bracken, you can see how the base really flares out. It’s easier to see the holes in the trunk and branches in the winter. In the summer, it’s not so obvious that these smaller branches are so different, as everything is in leaf.

At this time of year and into the autumn, it’s possible to see if the tree is a pedunculate or a sessile oak, as the leaves and acorns give that information. Tricky to get right up to the tree at this time of year to measure the trunk and see if there’s any fungi at the base, when the bracken and brambles are so high. There have been some trees I’ve chosen not to measure in the summer because of the wildlife, which has been very active! One tree I pass regularly has a hornets nest in – definitely a winter recording task.

Out of interest, this tree has a girth of 5.62m at 1.5m high. The base of the trunk is quite fluted, and has some patches of bark missing in places. There’s a really large hole where a branch used to be, with edges that are really well healed over – the branch must have fallen decades ago, at least. Inside here you can see that the trunk is hollowing, and you can see the distinctive colour of brown rot on the wood that’s just inside. At the very base of the trunk there’s lots of young epicormic growth – I saw this in the winter, but haven’t been back in the summer to get a look up close to this. The tree is in a fairly open position so it can spread and grow as it chooses now. What a great tree!

Oak apples

Often I see old oak apples, round and brown, and fairly camouflaged with the oak twigs. But when oak galls are new, you can see why they’re called oak apples….. This is one that I saw very early on last year. You can see from the oak leaves that they hadn’t started to open yet.

A surprise from last year – fairy longhorn moths!

One of my favourite surprises from last year was in the spring, when I saw some fairy longhorn moths! They seemed to hover and dance above the young oak leaves in a hypnotic and graceful way. Sometimes they’d land on the leaves, which is when I got to see their amazing long antennae….


Autumn and fungus

Autumn is starting to show in the forest, with some leaves just turning. I’m seeing so many fungi, of all shapes and colours, and on the forest floor, on tree trunks, stumps and fallen wood… here are just a few of them:

I’ve also been noticing lots of beefsteak fungi, a bracket fungus that’s associated with heart rot in veteran and ancient trees. I’ve been watching some as they grow each week, and write a post about them. Meanwhile, here’s a beautiful beefsteak fungus, quite fluted rather than smooth edged, on a tree that’s already very hollow. It’s growing on an old branch stump, on the side of the trunk.

First blog and welcome

Welcome, this will be the first of many posts on the updated website….. I’ll write about the trees I see, the changes in the forest through the year, and the many interesting things that I always see when out and about there. I’ll write a few posts to start off with, and then will probably settle to writing once a week. Thanks for reading!